One of the most striking trends underway in the DAM space right now (indications of which were abundantly present in the exhibitor booths at this year's Henry Stewart DAM Symposium in New York) is the rush toward Adobe Flex-based client interfaces. The obligatory charcoal-and-pewter look and feel is everywhere, it seems.
Of course, the significance of Adobe Flex isn't the color scheme but the underlying technology. We've written about some of the technical issues with Flex before. The significance to buyers right now (as my colleague Theresa Regli made clear in her Monday morning presentation at the Henry Stewart show) is merely that the rush to a new technology -- however sound (or problematic) that technology might be -- entails risk, and early adopters of the new Flex-based DAM systems will need to have the patience and willingness to deal with the unexpected quirks and annoyances that inevitably surface whenever Version 1.0 of something goes into production. And like it or not, the first-generation Flex UIs are tantamount to Version 1.0 software. There will be kinks to work out.
If you're considering a DAM system from a vendor that has recently gone (or will be going soon) to a Flex-based client (i.e., Widen, The FeedRoom, EMC Documentum, Ancept), you should understand that it's more important now than ever before that you do your own hands-on usability testing before assuming that everything is going to magically work out fine. If customization of the client app is something you need to do, get the vendor to show your developers what's involved in doing customization work. Chances are, your developers will have a serious Flex learning curve to climb before becoming productive. And that's if the vendor even makes it possible to customize the client software at all. (Some vendors don't have SDKs yet.) It's one thing to customize a DHTML interface; something else again to do surgery on a Flash UI.
If you're shopping for a DAM product, be ready for some very pretty-looking new interfaces. But also remember, you can't live on eye-candy alone. Slick does not mean more business-useful.